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Best Ultralight Thru-Hiking Backpacks

Any backpack that weighs under 2 pounds and carries at least 35 liters to me is considered an ultralight backpack, so the list below will be all the best ultralight thru-hiking backpack options available that all fall under this mark.

For thru-hikers, you are nearly never focused on having the most liters as this actually leads to fear packing and carrying far more gear (and weight) than you actually need.

There are hundreds of options for backpacks which can lead to issues when making a selection you can be happy with and that will serve your needs well, especially for longer-distance thru-hikes like the triple crown.

I will continue to update and provide the best options in this area when your main focus is on weight as there are framed, frameless, and then differences in the packs themselves like pockets, brain, roll-top, and many other things to consider.

My Choice of Best Ultralight Backpacks for Thru-Hiking

GearBackpack
Weight
Max
Liters
Max Carry
Weight (Lb)
Purchase
Link
Waymark Gear Co EVLV14 oz3518-20Check Price
HMG Windrider 2400White: 29.9 oz
Black: 32.3 oz
40+1040Check Price
Zpacks Arc Blast19.9 oz42+1335Check Price
ULA Equipment CDT26 oz5418Check Price
Zpacks Arc Air19.6 oz37+1335Check Price
ULA Ohm 2.033.1 oz6330Check Price
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60Up to 33.3oz36+2435Check Price
Atom Packs Atom+23.8 oz45+530Check Price
HMG Southwest 2400White: 30 oz
Black: 32.3 oz
40+1040Check Price
Pa’lante V216.8 oz31+6unlistedCheck Price
LiteAF ULTRA 40L Curve Full Suspension17 to 28 oz40+1525Check Price
MLD Prophet DCF 4817 oz4825Check Price
Nashville Packs Ultra Cutaway9.3 oz4025Check Price
Chicken Tramper CTUG-4530 oz4535Check Price

Best Ultralight Backpacks for Thru-Hiking

These are what I feel are the top options for an ultralight backpack based on space, weight, materials, and craftsmanship. As always gear is a blend of the things you need on a long and difficult hike where a catastrophic failure can’t happen.

Waymark Gear Co EVLV

Dependable Ultralight
WaymarkGear EVLV
9.2/10My Score
  • The EVLV is their lightest full-size pack designed for efficiency, functionality, and movement.
  • Utilizing and adapting the original design of the THRU, the EVLV is designed to keep the pack from sagging on your back and shoulders with the use of load shifters.
  • One torso size - there is no Small, Medium, or Large
  • Need a very dialed-in lightweight and small kit to be able to use this without cutting out gear.

The Waymark Gear EVLV was built with heavy influence from Outdoor Evolution and Darwin, and the pack is a super minimalist way to hike where your gear is dialed in and requires very little space to fit.

The EVLV is built from EPX70 Ecopack fabric and paired with an EPX200 bottom panel to improve the overall durability as it will rest on the ground and have contact with many rougher surfaces.

The EVLV sports some accent panels, with some color choices available, to give you a more personal look and feel. These are just below the front pocket and above the shoulder strap area and mid-back.

This is the perfect backpack for someone with a very dialed-in gear kit, as you will be very light on your feet by using this backpack! If you need a bit more space, check out our EVLV vs THRU here.


Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400

Windrider 2400
9.6/10My Score
  • Their original backpacking pack with external mesh pockets provides ample room for gear without having to open your pack and dig around.
  • Pair with their unique pods or stuff sacks for a buttoned-up, nearly waterproof kit.
  • Three external mesh pockets -- Makes it easy to see what's in your pockets and allows gear to dry faster.
  • Recently moved manufacturing from the US to Mexico and there has been a notable drop in overall quality, hoping issues are resolved in short time.

These packs are one of the favorites overall for any long-distance hiker the high-quality Dyneema build and massive single compartment make packing for a thru-hike easy and straightforward.

I prefer a stacking-based approach internally so this build for a pack is perfect when you are looking to layer gear on top of gear from the lowest need, quilt, pad, etc low to the immediate needs on top like rain gear or shelter for quick setup.


Zpacks Arc Blast

Dependable Ultralight
Zpacks Arc Blast
9.1/10My Score
  • Designed to hike along mountain trails, scale steep ascents, and weather those Appalachian rain storms.
  • Comfortably transfer your pack’s weight to your hips with their patented ‘Arc Frame’ system.
  • Featuring a wide array of add-ons from adjustable shoulder straps, interchangeable belts, and a variety of optional modular add-ons.
  • Don't get black as it doesn't let light in so you end up needing to empty it to find what you are looking for where other colors let light in.
  • Not comfortable over 30 pounds and unusable at 35 pounds

For many thru-hiking the best pack is a perfect blend of weight and fabric construction, the Arc Blast is incredibly lightweight and is even possibly a perfect slackpack since it can be so light when empty.

The build is assembled so that as long as you keep the overall weight to around or under 25 pounds it will be distributed perfectly across your body removing all issues from over-wear like rashes.

Zpacks offers a wide range of options on this pack and as add-ons to this pack which allow for near-endless customization and adaptation, along with offering solid customer service that helps at home and while on the trail itself.


ULA Equipment CDT

ULA Equipment CDT
9.2/10My Score
  • The CDT is their absolute lightest, most basic backpack. With just over 50 liters of available space, the CDT is the largest.
  • A tradition of being a reliable, lightweight, and durable backcountry companion.
  • NEW FOR 2021: The CDT now comes standard with a roll top.
  • The backpacks no longer include hydration sleeves, internal stash pockets, hand loops, or water bungie bottle holders.

The CDT is an amazing performing backpack with the new option for XPAC it is even more viable, the only issue is low maximum weight so you must have your gear dialed in to make full benefit out of the lightweight construction.

For someone with a very weight-managed gear set though this makes a perfect match for longer trail hiking providing the space you need for things like a longer food carry.


Zpacks Arc Air

Dependable Ultralight
Zpacks Arc Air
9.3/10My Score
  • For those grueling east coast ascents to long water carries across the desert.
  • Featuring custom Curved Carbon Fiber Air Stays, the Arc Air creates a gap between your back and the pack without the need for a mesh back panel.
  • A large stretchy Lycra mesh center pocket is great for quick-access items.
  • Curve is fixed set so airflow can be impeded with too many layers of clothing pushing the gap.

The Zpacks Arc Air is an ultralight pack with a curved carbon fiber frame made with your choice of ROBIC or DCF material. The backpack is a roll-top pack with a front mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, and sleeping pad straps.

The Arc Air has an adjustable torso length so you can get a good fit, and it comes in five different sizes for the hip belt. The hip belt does not have pockets, but you can buy pockets that attach to the pack. You can also buy a lot of other accessories.


ULA Ohm 2.0

ULA OHM 2.0
9.2/10My Score
  • The Ohm 2.0 is the pack for the fast folks, the ones who travel light, but still, take a prudent amount of gear to be safe and comfortable.
  • The Ohm 2.0 is a full-featured, full suspension (active) ultralight pack that offers exceptional load control, on-trail functionality, and full-body compression.
  • As of Fall 2021, all Ohm 2.0's come standard with a roll-top closure.
  • The backpacks no longer include hydration sleeves, internal stash pockets, hand loops, or water bungie bottle holders.

The ULA Ohm 2.0 backpack is a high-quality backpack that is lightweight and perfect for backpacking. It is one of the most durable backpacks available and it provides many thru-hikers with many years of comfortable backpacking.

Ultralight Adventure Equipment produces a number of backpacks that are popular with hikers on the Appalachian Trail. One of their lower volume packs, the Ohm, is perfect for experienced backpackers who want to carry less weight.


Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60

GG Mariposa 60
9.4/10My Score
  • With a removable internal frame, load lifters, and 7 built-in pockets, this is a gear-hauling workhorse that weighs in at just 2 pounds.
  • This award-winning pack’s roomy main pocket holds your shelter, clothing, sleeping pad, and food.
  • There are seven extra pockets - one mesh for wet stuff, two easy-to-reach for water and high-energy snacks, and the rest for whatever else.
  • People have reported that the pack can carry up to 30 pounds if well fit, but above this level, it begins to be more challenging.

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 backpack is really great. It has a lot of space, 60 liters, and is very strong. It also has a lot of pockets for organizing everything, and it’s very light at only 2 pounds.

This backpack is so lightweight and comfortable that it is hard to compete with as it can also carry a lot of weight, all of which make it perfect for thru-hiking.

The Mariposa backpack is comfortable to carry, whether it is full or empty. It also has a lot of pockets, which allows it to hold a lot of gear from clothing to a full resupply without issue.


Atom Packs Atom+

Atom Packs Atom+
9.5/10My Score
  • The Atom+ is the answer – an ultralight pack that can adapt with you to meet the conditions.
  • The Atom+ gives you the same easy access to everything you need to keep hiking all day long using the five accessible pockets when worn.
  • They increased the torso length a little to accommodate a removable hip belt, the back panel has a removable carbon hooped frame and foam sleeve inserted from the inside.
  • If you think you’re going to frequently be putting more than the suggested recommended load of 30 pounds, then the Atom Mo will be much more comfortable.

Atom Packs is a company in the UK that makes cottage gear for hikers. The company was founded by Tom Gale, who is a triple crowner with loads of experience.

This company has a great reputation for making custom gear. Over the last few years, they have shipped over 1000 packs to customers who are hiking on trails all over the world.

Atom Packs are tailor-made to fit your needs. There are some standard packs that you can order on the website, but the real magic happens when you customize your pack.

You can choose the colors, materials, and features of your backpack. You’ll get a personal service and feel like you’re designing the pack with help.


HMG Southwest 2400

Southwest 2400
9.5/10My Score
  • Three easily accessible external pockets to store and protect your gear.
  • Pair with their unique pods or stuff sacks for a buttoned-up, nearly waterproof kit.
  • External Hardline with Dyneema® side pockets keeps your gear protected and free from any unwanted snags or abrasion.
  • Recently moved manufacturing from the US to Mexico and there has been a notable drop in overall quality, hoping issues are resolved in short time.

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Backpack is a 40L backpack that is good for trips when you need to carry a lot of things. The extra 9.8L of storage can be used for water or gear you need quick access to on the go.

The backpack is made with Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s ultralight Dyneema composite fabric. The external pockets are made of a strong material that is resistant to tearing and abrasion, making it perfect for use in terrains like deserts or deep forests.


Pa’lante V2

Pa’lante V2
9.1/10My Score
  • Very well-known company building truly minimalist backpacks where a smaller, lightweight approach is always preferred.
  • The shape of the bag is very useful in the scrub as you catch on less.
  • You either will love or hate the bottom pocket on the V2.
  • I wish they offered more sizes, basically, one size fits all approach without the ability to customize to a larger size need versus cottage competitors.

The Pa’lante V2 Backpack is a lightweight backpack that is perfect for carrying light to moderate weight loads and equipment. It doesn’t have a frame, making it more compact and easier to carry around.

This backpack is minimalist, but it has some unique features that make it better than other backpacks in this category. These features include pockets that can be accessed while hiking, durable fabrics, comfortable shoulder straps, and a clean design.


LiteAF ULTRA 40L Curve Full Suspension

LiteAF ULTRA 40L Curve Full Suspension
9.3/10My Score
  • 40L body plus an additional 15+ liters of external pockets totaling 55L of pack space
  • Designed to comfortably carry around 25 LBS (with optional full padded hip belt)
  • Optional Fully padded 4″ wide hip belt constructed of spacer mesh and close cell foam
  • 3″ wide S-shaped shoulder straps constructed of spacer mesh and close cell foam
  • TBD

LiteAF is a family business. Husband and wife Chris and Lorraine Millard own it. Growth has been steady, and the business moved out of the garage one year ago to a nearby warehouse.

There are many different custom options that you can use to make your hiking pack unique. You can choose from all the standard options (like a hip belt and load lifters), as well as some more unusual options (like a bottom stash pocket or shoulder strap pockets).


Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet DCF 48

Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet DCF 48
9.4/10My Score
  • The pack is sized for modern ultralight and super ultralight backpacking.
  • 2022 Design Change: Stronger and more abrasion-resistant. The rear main pocket is now solid matching fabric with lower corner drain mesh like the side pockets.
  • Some have issues reaching the side pockets while wearing the pack and instead opt for the water bottle holder on the strap.

The Prophet DCF is an ultralight pack that is perfect for carrying a lot of weight. The EVA padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt makes it comfortable to wear, even when it is filled to the brim. The wide hip belt wings help to distribute the weight evenly across your hips.


Nashville Packs Ultra Cutaway

Cutaway Pack 40L
9.1/10My Score
  • Newer cottage company always looking to make the best and more lightweight and exciting gear.
  • No lead time through GGG as they are ready to ship as long as you don't require customization.
  • Small capacity and limited "extras" as this pack is meant for those with a very dialed-in kit.

Nashville Packs is a newer cottage company that makes hiking backpacks. Their backpack, the Cutaway Backpack, is different because it features a vest-style chest strap. It also has a really good shoulder strap system that makes it really comfortable to wear.

The Cutaway is a narrow backpack that can be adjusted to fit different torso lengths. It has 40L of storage, including external pockets. It is available in different fabrics and with different options, such as J-straps.


Chicken Tramper CTUG-45

CTUG-45 Liter Ultralight Backpack
9.1/10My Score
  • The craftsmanship on the pack is beyond amazing and spectacular in quality.
  • Attention to detail is clearly paramount.
  • All of the elastic pocket pulls are easily accessible and feel solid.
  • Lead times can be long and many times sold out and unable to be ordered.

The Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear 45 Liter Backpack (CTUG-45) is a backpack that is light and waterproof. It is made with XPAC, a fabric that is lightweight and more resistant to wear and tear than some other fabrics.

The pack has a few unique features like a removable frame that you can take out if you don’t need it. It also has a pocket on the outside for your sit pad, and straps on the shoulders and hips to make it more comfortable to carry.

The pack can also easily carry up to 30 pounds without feeling too heavy.


Thru-Hiking Backpacking Requirements

When considering an ultralight backpack, there are a few key features to look for:

Lightweight materials

An ultralight backpack should be made from lightweight materials such as nylon or Dyneema in order to minimize its weight.

Minimalist Design

Ultralight backpacks are designed with simplicity and functionality in mind. They typically have fewer pockets and compartments than traditional backpacks and may forego features such as a frame in favor of a lighter weight.

Weight

They will tend to be less than 2 pounds when empty and can often be compressed down to a small size when not in use. Some are even in the vicinity of 1 pound or less!

Capacity

For most, you will need around a 40-liter capacity but some go as low as 30-35 liters. This is typically sufficient for carrying everything you need for the 3-7 day town to town visits that you get on a thru-hike.

Materials

Most backpacks were made from DCF fabric but newer materials are coming that are lighter and more durable like ULTRA which is taking the thru-hiking world by storm.

Opening

Most ultralight packs will have a roll-top enclosure which is not only lighter but also more versatile in terms of fitting a wider range of gear inside.

Shoulder Straps

Padded shoulder straps are key for comfort on those long days on the trail. Many ultralight packs will have thinner straps to save weight but some companies are now making lighter weight padding that still provides good comfort.

Additional Considerations When Choosing a Backpack for Your Thru-Hike

When thinking about grabbing an ultralight pack you want to make sure that it will fit all of your gear, that it is going to be comfortable for numerous continual days, and then you will have lots of individual pieces that may be specific to your thru-hike or part of personal preferences.

Comfort

For most, including myself, comfort is key when choosing a backpack. If it is not comfortable then you will likely be miserable within the first few days. I prefer shoulder straps that are well-padded and have load lifters for adjustment on them so that I can tweak the fit.

Sizing

There are many sizes within packs from short to tall and many in between. It is important that you get a pack that fits your torso length well. If the pack is too long or short then it will not fit correctly and be uncomfortable.

Water Resistance

How well the fabric defends against water and how well were seams managed will also play a role in deciding which backpack is best for you. If you are hiking in an area with a lot of rain, or even if you just want extra peace of mind, you may want to consider getting a pack with good waterproofing or a solid liner.

Durability

How well the fabric will last will matter when you are going to be roughing it for 5-6 months. If you are constantly having to stop and fix up holes or replace gear then it will cut into your hiking time and enjoyment. I prefer packs that use high-quality materials like Dyneema and Ultra because they are performance-based and pretty durable.

Design Considerations

Do you care for pockets, lots of straps, hip belts, or other parts? If so you will want to take a look at the different designs and find something that meets your needs.

For some, a simple roll-top backpack will suffice but others may want or need more organization in their pack. If you have gear that you need to access frequently or are worried about losing small items, then you may want to consider a pack with more compartments and pockets.

Weight-to-Volume

You are trying to find the pack that has the internal liters at the lowest weight. This is the number that you really want to focus on when choosing a pack because it will help you understand what kind of gear you can bring along.

Gear Fit in Your Backpack

How does your gear fit, some people like to lay everything horizontally while others just toss it in. I tend to organize my gear in a horizontal method which means I need something deep and wide enough to ensure everything fits laying flat, I don’t want horizontal tents or similar items.

If you are interested in other gear to maximize your thru-hike performance, I have gear broken down by type over here on my main gear page.